Amaravati: Chief justice J K Maheshwari of the Andhra Pradesh High Court has finally dispensed with the practice of judges and staff having to go to the court complex in the capital city of Amaravati to conduct proceedings through video conference.
Instead, judges can now function from their official residences in Vijayawada. The High Court issued a notification on Wednesday stating that until July 13 only urgent matters would be taken up through video conference.
The work-from-home option for judges comes against the backdrop of the spread of coronavirus infections among court staff, and the death of a top judicial officer due to COVID-19 a few days ago.
As the High Court complex is far from Vijayawada, there was a delay in providing emergency medical care to this senior judicial officer who died before he could reach hospital.
Sources also said the All India Backward Classes Federation, an organisation presided over by Justice (retd) V Eswaraiah, former chairman of the National Commission for BCs, has written to the president of India and the chief justice of India narrating these developments in the Andhra High Court which exposed the judges and staff to the virus.
The petition referred to the swearing-in of new judges on May 8 in a packed air- conditioned hall filled with judges, advocates, staff and family members of the new judges. This was in contrast to the simple oath-taking ceremony that took place in the Telangana High Court, the petition said.
After the summer vacation, which ended on June 15, judges have been going to court to conduct proceedings through video conferencing. “We fail to understand why judges should come to court to hold video conferences,” said a senior advocate.
The common practice of judges lunching together continued during the current pandemic, which means that more people gather at one point and maintaining social distancing becomes difficult. Sources also said that in a sympathetic gesture, the chief justice and several judges went to the private hospital to pay homage to the judicial officer, thus exposing themselves to the risk coronavirus infection.
When contacted, Hans Raj, working president of the All India Backward Classes Federation, said, “Our intention was not to complain against anyone. But, institutions like courts which have to ensure that all others follow COVID-19 guidelines should lead by example.”